SA renewables post-election?

Neoen Hornsdale Battery 08 600px

ReNew magazine was just about to go to print with the following story about SA renewables, but uncertainty about support for these projects from the new South Australian state government elected on Saturday 17 March meant we pulled the story. But we thought it worth recapping the projects here, even though we’re not sure that all of them will still proceed.

At least one of the projects, the Housing Trust virtual power plant trial, is already in train, with contracts signed. The incoming government has said it will honour any contracted projects so it seems clear that will continue. With the others, we hope the new state government will see the value in them, both for increasing stability in the grid and reducing prices for a range of SA households—and cementing SA’s position as the nation’s leader in renewable energy. The Guardian has written this article about the prospects, and here is Renew Economy’s initial reading of the situation.

These projects were financed by the previous government’s $150 m Renewable Energy Technology Fund (RETF).

The first cab off the rank from SA’s RETF rose to the challenge posed by Tesla’s Elon Musk in mid-2017 in response to the state’s much-publicised ‘energy crisis.

A 100 MW lithium ion battery—the world’s largest—was installed at French renewable energy company Neoen’s Hornsdale Wind Farm in Jamestown, in partnership with Tesla, who agreed to deliver the battery system ‘within 100 days of signing a grid interconnection agreement with the government or it’s free’.

It was delivered within 63 days. On 7 July, Hornsdale was selected to host the battery; the connection agreement was signed in October; the battery was installed, and charged and discharged into the grid for the first time on 28 November; the community was invited to celebrate on 9 December. The wind/battery facility operates 24/7 providing stability services and emergency backup power.

The RETF more recently awarded $3m to Perth-based Carnegie Clean Energy to build a 2 MW/500 kWh battery storage installation that will create a renewables-based microgrid on the old General Motors Holden site in Elizabeth, on the northern outskirts of Adelaide. The battery storage system combined with a 3 MW rooftop solar system—possibly Australia’s largest at a single site—could also be expanded to 10–15 MW if all the available roofspace was used.

A microgrid for the produce markets was to be realised with $10.5 m from the fund, to combine 2.5 MW solar PV, 4.2 MWh of Tesla battery packs and a 2.5 MW diesel generator that is expected to save stall holders around $500,000 a year.

And a $2 m grant plus $30 m loan from the RETF was to see the rollout of the world’s largest (250 MW/650 MWh) virtual power plant (VPP), comprising a network of at least 50,000 homes with solar and battery systems, over the next 4.5 years. A trial has already commenced, in which 1100 Housing Trust properties will receive a 5 kW PV system and 13.5 kWh Tesla Powerwall 2 battery—installed for free and paid for through the sale of electricity. A further 24,000 Housing Trust properties were to follow, and then a similar deal offered to all SA households and businesses from June 2019.

The VPP was expected to lower the energy bills of participating households by 30%, as well as helping stabilise power supply for the whole state through provision of around 20% of its average daily energy requirements.

www.bit.ly/2tkNweg, ourenergyplan.sa.gov.au, www.hornsdalepowerreserve.com.au